Sometimes the best ideas come from personal experience, as was the case with Chored inventor Olly Southern, who created an app that is designed to solve the kind of problems he encountered during house shares.
Southern founded the company behind Chored, Random Array, in November 2014, and launched the app in October 2015.
We put Southern under our startup spotlight to find out more about his business and app.
Tell us about Chored.
Chored is an app for house shares. It lets people split and pay bills, including rent and utilities, directly to the company via the app.
As the name suggests, Chored also allows housemates to assign and track household chores. In addition, the app includes group chat and a "who's home" feature that uses geolocation so you can see who's in and who's not.
It's helpful if you forget to push the button on your load of washing; just simply access the app, see who is home and ask them to push the button for you.
What inspired you to develop the Chored app?
Like most students, I lived in a shared house during university. For the most part, it was a lot of fun but we did have some arguments, such as who had left out week-old dirty dishes - usually me. When I moved into a shared property after university, I noticed that arguments over chores and bills worsened.
The thing that struck me was the imbalanced "responsibility quota"; one person was always left to manage all the bills and left to chase people for owed money - this was me, if you hadn't guessed!
I realised that the relationship between housemates and the way it was managed, was very dysfunctional, and I started thinking about different ways to solve this. The first lightbulb moment I had was to create a living and cleaning rota in an app format, as a lot of arguments were over minor or trivial chores and cleaning issues.
I then thought of integrating a payment platform, so there would be no more disagreements over payments not being made on time, or people being owed money from housemates. The idea of Chored was born.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground?
I was confident in my concept but I needed to undertake some due diligence. I first commissioned research to see if untidy and late-paying housemates were a real pain point for house sharers.
I wanted to know what things annoyed house sharers, what they argued about most, and how frequently would they argue. The research revealed that while housemates were lots of fun to live with, they were a cause of many arguments; chores and bills being the main concern.
What technology do you use?
Chored is a web platform with native mobile apps for Android and iOS.
What level of funding have you received so far?
To date, the business has secured £150,000 in funding to launch the product, achieved by crowdfunding, angel investors and the Startup Funding Club.
We have a wealth of advisory talent which has been built up through networking in the right places. Surrounding ourselves with good generals has enabled us to find solutions to challenges quickly and prepared us for what lies ahead.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
I remember one challenge in particular: on the day that I left Telefonica, our backend developer told me that he was quitting the business to go travelling, leaving me with just three days to find another developer.
A lot of stress and phone calls later, I met with our now current developer and worked with him for 24 hours straight to bring him up to speed. He single-handedly designed the backend system and in-app payments "direct to utility" was born.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
The initial idea of Chored was definitely one of the biggest milestones and when you first see your idea turn into something tangible is pretty special too. One of our most recent highlights was the release of the iOS app, meaning that Chored is now available on both Android and iOS.
What did you do before starting up?
After graduating with a degree in law from the University of Leicester, I started my career at tech giant Yahoo, beginning as an intern and making my way up to, brace yourself for the jargon, business partner to the commercial director of the expansion markets; essentially I forecast ad spend in developing countries.
I then went on to work for Telefonica, where my experience in digital and mobile technology, specifically developing the communication app TU Go, gave me the inspiration and knowledge to create my own mobile app.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about running your own startup?
Running my own business has always been a dream of mine. One of my favourite aspects about running my own startup is the autonomy of it; I know exactly what I'm doing and am across all the detail.
Working in a large company, you can feel like you are a small part in a massive machine. Running a startup is the complete opposite; everything that happens is because of something you did or didn't do.
Suddenly you're the machine. It means that you can take credit for the good decisions, and shoulder responsibility for the bad ones. So far, I'd say the good are outweighing the bad.
Again, taking responsibility means that there's no one there to tell you when to stop working. I am constantly thinking "I could be doing x or y" instead of catching up on The Walking Dead. Working out of the constraints of 9 to 5 is great, but allowing yourself time to relax and unwind can be tough. Just ask my girlfriend.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
We're a London startup, made up of 100 percent thoroughbred Londoners. So it's a pint or two in the pub, and some peanuts if we've been really hard at it.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which company would it be?
Being from London, I have a natural fondness for UK startups. It's a younger market, but in recent years has shown that it is more than capable of competing with the San Francisco giants.
I love companies that have taken something incredibly complex, and made it simple and accessible; companies that capture the essence of the frequently overused catchall "disruptive".
TransferWise, for taking the faff out of international payments, or Hassle, connecting London's time poor multitudes with the ever-growing network of cleaners, are two great examples.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
My CTO lives in Switzerland, my database architect in Romania, my engineers are in the Ukraine, and I work from my girlfriend's studio, occasionally known as the study.
That said, we are looking to centralise the team in London, but I stand by the ethos that as long as the job is done well, it doesn't matter who did it, or where they were working from.
Elon Musk. He wants to populate Mars. Enough said.
Smart or casual?
We're in East London. You wear what you want to wear!
Coffee shop of choice?
Milkbar in Soho. They have an old kettle attached to a pulley hanging from the door, which automatically pulls the door shut once open. The coffee's good too.
Beverage of choice?
I like orange squash, for which I make no apology.
The Cellars in Newington Green. It's walking distance from my flat, and it has alcohol; a winning combination.
I love CityMapper; they have nailed the tone of voice for their target market. Why would you use anything but Google Maps to get from A to B? Because Google Maps doesn't give you the option to fly there by jet pack.
I also love Headspace, which provides beautifully illustrated guided mindfulness meditation exercises. I just discovered that Google pays full subscription to this app for all their employees; this should be in every entrepreneur's pocket.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Absolutely. I believe that anyone who comes to this industry believing that they know best is doomed to a very short, very isolated career.
The tech startup community is a wonderfully inclusive, supportive and friendly place to be, if it wasn't for some early pearls of wisdom from other entrepreneurs two steps ahead of me, Chored would never have left the starting blocks.
I have already been contacted by at least 20 other startups looking to simply hang out and share our experiences. The startup scene is a wonderful industry to be involved in.
Can the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
Actually, entrepreneurism is one area in which the government is doing a fantastic job. Without the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief offered to investors in our first round, we could not have managed to raise our initial £150,000. And without EIS, our second round would look very different.
Together with offering research and development tax credits for new tech ventures, along with various possible government funding schemes, I think we are pretty well enabled.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from IoT connectivity firm Arkessa and 3D mapping platform developer eeGeo, to social listening app Twizoo and mobile data security and management firm Wandera.
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